Which merchant account provider is best placed to help your business boost sales, improve efficiency, and fuel growth?
For cash-only businesses, the scene is all too familiar. It’s 8:17am, right in the middle of morning rush hour, and the queue is stretching way beyond the door to your cafe. You’re struggling to make coffee, take payments, count out the correct change, write out receipts, and keep track of inventory. Rushed off your feet, you get an order wrong. Your palms sweat; your head aches.
Frustrated, the customers at the back of the line begin to drift away. How do you keep up with demand? How do you save time, satisfy customers, and speed up service? There’s got to be a better way… right?
Right – and it’s called credit card processing. By accepting contactless payments, you can increase the efficacy of your service, and reduce the need to carry (and handle) lots of change, or check for counterfeit bills. And, with an integrated point of sale (POS) system, you can track sales, scan items, and manage staff and stock, all from your countertop.
And now, it’s easier than ever to choose the right credit card processing company for your small business. We’ve picked out our top seven providers, whose understandable rates and friendlier contract lengths make them ideal for small businesses and micro-merchants. Which one’s right for you?
The Best Credit Card Processing Companies for Small Businesses in 2021
We compared the hundreds of credit card processing companies in the US, looking for the lowest rates, the most transparent pricing, and the shortest, most manageable contracts. It all boiled down to just six credit card processing providers – the absolute best for small US businesses.
So, who came out on top?
Well, we found Square to offer the best credit card processing for small businesses, particularly micro-merchants. Making up the best of the rest are Flagship Merchant Services, Helcim, Toast, Fattmerchant, and Fiserv.
Let’s find out why.
Best small business credit card processing companies:
Best for micro-merchants
Market traders, Christmas tree vendors, and pop-up stores, take note! Square charges no monthly fees, no setup costs, and nothing for its card machine, either. You’ll pay only a fixed fee of 2.6% + 20 cents on each face-to-face transaction you take through the Square card reader. There are no hidden fees and no regular billing, making Square ideal for micro-merchants and seasonal businesses. Better still, Square’s range of solutions for accepting card payments – whether via invoice, over the phone, or through your website – make it a perfect partner for ambitious retailers looking to scale.
- Handles PCI compliance for you
- No credit check required to get started!
- Square can be expensive – its virtual terminal transaction fee is a grimace-inducing 3.5% + 15 cents
Best for retail businesses
When it comes to saving small retail businesses money on their credit card processing fees, National Processing has more than earnt its stripes. Your service begins with a free cost analysis designed to provide your retail business with some of the lowest, most simple, and refreshingly transparent rates in the US (you can view exactly what you'll pay on a $100 transaction here). There are no contracts and no commitment required, and you'll even get your own dedicated account executive. Better still, National Processing promises that if it can't beat your current credit card processing rate, it'll buy you a $500 Visa gift card. Worth a shot?
- Quick, straightforward setup
- Tailored solutions for the hospitality industry available
- Highly rated by its customer base
- Some online reviews complain of slow customer service, and a high turnover of account managers
Flagship Merchant Services (FMS)
Best for short, straightforward contracts
Whether it’s a gym membership or a cell phone contract, nobody likes being locked into a long term deal – especially growing SMBs. It’s a breath of fresh air, then, that Flagship Merchant Services offers month-to-month contracts to every single one of its small business customers – and no surprise it has over 25,000 of them! On top of that, you’ll get a $200 AMEX gift card if FMS can’t at least match your current processing rate. FMS also partners with highly-rated POS terminal provider Clover, providing you with free hardware to speed up sales, and help give your countertop a makeover.
- Offers same-day funding, the quickest in the industry
- Accepts Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay
- Its rates aren’t transparent, and online customer reviews aren’t too hot
Best for fair, transparent pricing
Helcim prides itself on providing ‘honest credit card processing’ – and we’d have to agree. Helcim’s ‘Interchange-plus’ pricing plan makes it obvious what your fees are and where they’re going. You’ll know exactly what Helcim is charging for its service, meaning you get none of the ugly fees often concealed within the ‘convenience’ of a blended rate. As well as ethical, crystal clear (and surprisingly affordable!) rates, with Helcim, you’ll also benefit from volume discounts, and a complete lack of cancellation fees. It’s a small business’ dream!
Try Helcim’s handy cost calculator to find out more about what your business would pay. Simply enter a few details about your industry, processing volume, and your average transaction value, and you’ll get an exact figure as to what you’ll pay.
- Excellent customer support
- Brilliant ecommerce tools to jump-start your online business
- You’ll need to be processing around $1,500 per month in card payments for it to be cost-effective
Best for POS integration (it’s the whole package!)
Anyone who’s ever served a customer knows that simply taking the payment isn’t enough; you’ll also need a system for keeping tabs on sales, and making sure you’ve got sufficient stock in the back room. Well, that’s exactly what Toast does – simple credit card processing for small businesses, combined with sleek POS hardware, and intuitive software to match. Toast also provides offline payment processing, as well as a solution that’s 100% PCI compliant. Oh, and Toast will also build you a customized rate to reflect the unique mix of cards your business accepts – so you can be confident you’re getting the best deal possible for your SMB.
- Offers integrated payroll, labor, stock management, and sales analytics functionality
- Purpose-built for businesses in the hospitality trade...
- … so if you’re not a restaurant, pub, cafe, or hotel, you’re better off looking elsewhere
Best for accepting high value transactions
If your business needs to accept a lot of high value transactions, Fattmerchant’s subscription model could save you hundreds of dollars per month. Yep, Fattmerchant strips away those pesky, tacked-on costs to your bill – you’ll pay no batch fees, statement fees, or PCI compliance costs – and there’s no charge to cancel, either. You’ll just pay a monthly fee starting at $99, plus 8 cents per transaction. Better still, Fattmerchant offers credit card processing that’s handmade for industries such as retail, healthcare, and field services – meaning it understands the unique challenges faced by your business’ niche.
- Offers next-day payouts into your business bank account
- Excellent customer reviews online
- Not suitable for seasonal businesses, or those dealing mainly in lower value sales
Best for accepting a wide range of payments
If your business deals with a high volume of transactions (and you know how to negotiate!), then Fiserv is for you. As well as no termination fee and month-to-month terms, you can barter Fiserv down to some of the lowest rates in the industry. It also works with Clover to provide sparkling POS systems for managing sales, stock, and staff – and impressing your customers. Plus, Fiserv lets you tap into the Chinese market, allowing you to accept payments from leading Eastern payment provider Alipay. Oh, and the perks don’t stop there – if you’re a veteran or military spouse, you’re eligible for benefits, including a free Clover Mini POS system!
- Offers a customer loyalty program to help drive engagement and returning visitors
- Excellent reporting and analytics features
- It’s trickier to apply for a merchant account than it is with other companies, such as Square
It doesn’t matter whether you run a coffee shop or a stall at a farmer’s market; heck, you could even be a plumber operating out of the back of a van. The fact is, if you’re a small business – and you want to make paying a quicker, safer, and less stressful experience for your customers – then you should explore what accepting cashless payments can do for you.
If you have one eye on the future and want to accept a wider selection of payment methods, Fiserv is your best bet. For honest, simple pricing, we recommend both Helcim and National Processing, while Flagship Merchant Services offers shorter, more straightforward contracts.
When choosing a credit card processing company for your small business, though, you’ll also have to consider the volume and value of the transactions you’ll be accepting. If these will be high value, Fattmerchant’s pricing plan offers big benefits. If, however, those sales will be small – or spaced out at more infrequent intervals throughout the year – you’ll want a flat-rate from a provider such as Toast, or Square.
On the topic of Square, our love for its fixed fees, ease of use, and simplified payment handling is well-documented. It’s our number one credit card processing pick for small businesses – and you can have your free card reader in the mail today. Simply hit the button below to explore how much you could save with Square.
What’s the best online credit card processing for small businesses?
Our top pick for online credit card processing is Helcim. Its fully hosted ecommerce platform will help get your online presence firing on all cylinders in no time, and allow you to process payments as smoothly and securely as possible.
And, if you love to tinker, its set of third-party shopping cart integrations and developer APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) empower your team to customize to their heart’s content.
Is a point of sale system always included with a merchant account?
Nope – so, if you know you’ll need a POS system, you’ll need to check what the deal is with your merchant account provider. Usually, POS systems are available as add-on options available at an extra cost. Some providers (such as Flagship Merchant Services (FMS) and Fiserv) have deals with POS suppliers (in their case, Clover), while others (think Toast) offer an integrated POS and processing solution.
Will my business face a credit check to be accepted for merchant services?
That depends on which provider you select. Traditional merchant account providers (such as Flagship Merchant Services, Helcim, and Fiserv) all include a credit check as part of the application process. In most cases, you’ll also need a good credit score to be eligible.
We found Square to be the best credit card processing company for small businesses that doesn’t require a credit check. You can apply online in a matter of minutes, and have all the hardware you need to accept card payments on your counter within the week. Hit the button below to see what all the fuss is about!